Insemination Procedures for Infertility
An insemination procedure uses a thin, flexible tube (catheter) to put sperm into the woman's reproductive tract. For some couples with infertility problems, insemination can improve the chances of pregnancy.
Donor sperm are used if the male partner is sterile, has an extremely low sperm count, or carries a risk of genetic disease. A woman planning to conceive without a male partner can also use donor sperm.
Prior to insemination, the sperm usually are washed and concentrated (placing unwashed sperm directly into the uterus can cause severe cramps). Concentration is accomplished by selectively choosing highly active, healthy sperm that are more capable of fertilizing an egg.
Intrauterine insemination (IUI)
Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is the placing of sperm into a woman's uterus when she is ovulating. This is achieved with a thin flexible tube (catheter) that is passed into the vagina, through the cervix, and into the uterus.
IUI can use sperm from the male partner or a donor. It is often combined with superovulation medicine to increase the number of available eggs.
Artificial insemination (AI)
Artificial insemination (AI) is another name for intrauterine insemination but can also refer to placing sperm in a woman's vagina or cervix when she is ovulating. The sperm then travel into the fallopian tubes, where they can fertilize the woman's egg or eggs.
AI can be done with sperm from the male partner or a donor, and can be combined with superovulation.
What To Expect After Treatment
These techniques are done on an outpatient basis and require only a short recovery time. You may experience cramping during the procedure, especially if sperm are inserted into your uterus. You may be advised to avoid strenuous activities for the remainder of the day.
Why It Is Done
Intrauterine insemination or artificial insemination may be done if:
How Well It Works
If a man's sperm are absent, low in quantity, or poor in quality, intrauterine insemination may slightly improve the chances—by up to 10%—that the female partner will become pregnant.2
Insemination combined with superovulation increases the risk of multiple pregnancy (conceiving more than one fetus).1Multiple pregnancy is high-risk for mother and fetuses. To learn more, see the topic Multiple Pregnancy: Twins or More.
Insemination procedures pose a slight risk of infection.
Some women experience severe cramping during insemination.
There is a slight risk of puncturing the uterus during intrauterine insemination.
There is a slight risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome if superovulation is used together with insemination.
There may be a higher risk of birth defects for babies conceived by certain assisted reproductive techniques. Talk with your doctor about these possible risks.
What To Think About
Insemination procedures are the simplest and least expensive methods of assisted reproduction. No anesthesia or surgery is needed.
Use of donor sperm
If donor sperm are needed, you can choose a known or anonymous donor who is willing to provide sperm.
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